Austin Community College’s new center introduces students to high-demand careers

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Austin High School students had a task: guide a Lego robot from point A to point B on a table while avoiding obstacles.

At one table, four students huddled around an iPad they used to control their tiny robot.

„We’re programming the Legobot to move,” explains Chindana, who attended a career boot camp at Austin Community College (ACC) last month. „We just code it… and use an app.”

Chintana and other Austin ISD students competed in „The Forge,” a digital fabrication lab at ACC’s new $6 million Make It Center. The Highland Campus Center will open to the public this fall, but in the meantime, camps like this one and other groups can schedule time to use the space.

„I think it’s too overwhelming with all the technology and stuff,” said Thorne, another student at the camp. „I think it can teach people a lot about technology and manufacturing.”

Rafe Ahmed helps Austin ISD high school students complete a coding activity at the Make It Center.

That’s the idea behind the Make It Center: to give people an introduction to high-demand careers in Central Texas.

Janelle Green, director of the Make It Center, explains, „We look at companies and industries, and within them, career paths. „Our exhibit floor includes advanced manufacturing and robotics; We have biotech, life sciences, public and social services, skilled trades, business and entrepreneurship and healthcare.”

The 10,000-square-foot space includes, of course, a fabrication lab where you can play with robots and other projects. It has a virtual reality station where you can put on a virtual reality headset and try out different professions.

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There is also an area where aspiring firefighters or scientists can try on a uniform or lab coat. For those who want to work in the healthcare sector, there is a stretcher with a patient-mannequin. Plus, it’s hard to see Pepper, a humanoid robot that guests get a chance to program. (Pepper can dance, talk, read human emotions, and one day rule us all.)

Green says the center’s goal is to attract high school and college students, as well as adults who have taken a break from education or are looking to change careers. He said he had never seen anything like this center before.

„We think it’s pioneering and innovative,” he said.

A collective desire for children to succeed

L Austin Community College Advertising He plans to open the Make It Center for the first time in 2021. The idea came from a collaboration with Roy Spence, co-founder of GSD&M Advertising. Spence Company was also established Movement itA non-profit organization that strives to educate middle school and high school students about high-paying career paths.

Spence said she got the idea for the Make It movement in 2019 while traveling across America. That said, most people try to find something they can agree on.

„I finally realized one day that the only thing that Americans and parents agree on — whether you’re left or right or middle or whatever — is that we all want our kids to succeed,” he said.

There is data to back it up. Pew Research Center study Published In January, 88% of parents felt it was very important for their children to be financially independent when they were adults and found a job or career they wanted.

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And, increasingly, landing a high-paying job in Texas requires more than a bachelor’s degree. group Texas 2036 More than half of the jobs in the state now require a postsecondary certificate, either a certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

So Spence reached out to ACC administrators, including Chancellor Richard Rhodes, to find ways to introduce high school students to career paths. They started talking about creating a center. Spence said it’s important to find a way to show students what’s out there.

„If you’re involved, whether it’s law, welding or construction, the data is clear,” he says. „If you get involved, you start to understand it, and that builds excitement and confidence.”

Green explained that ACC collaborated with community groups and business leaders to create the center. They even consulted with Austin Thinkery and the San Antonio Doseum, as both children’s museums focus on hands-on learning experiences.

Brandon Whatley, Dean Design, manufacturing, construction and application technologies Since the university, he said he’s been trying to find a better way to showcase the technical workforce programs his department offers, from welding and construction management to engineering technology.

„We’re talking about what kinds of technologies are available and available,” he explains. „From virtual reality to actually assembling something or using a 3D printer or something like that.”

For example, manufacturing. According to Whatley, people have different ideas about what productivity is. And they are often unaware of all the career opportunities it offers, he said.

„A place like this opens your eyes to different subsets or aspects of the industry collectively,” he said.

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Whatley also said the center provides an opportunity for ACC to reach students who are still deciding what to do after graduating high school.

„We want to make sure they are well informed and have a good opportunity to explore their options,” he said. „Growing up, I didn’t have the luxury of knowing what was in it.”

Will it work?

It contains Drama At the opening of the Make It Center in May, ACC President Monique Umbrey said many people are considering what they want to do with their lives.

„We create a space where every student can find their purpose, connect with their passion and have a vision of a better future,” he said.

He described the center as „the future of career research” and said it will help many businesses in Central Texas close the gap between available jobs and the number of skilled workers.

Spence thinks every community college should have something like a Make It Center.

But will exploring the fields showcased in this space inspire people to pursue that career? Green said the university plans to follow suit — if those who come to the center sign up for classes at ACC.

„We are working with our registration management team to design the registration process and the data we need so we can see the conversion of visitors to this venue and registration,” he said.

The Make It Center is scheduled to open its doors to the public this fall, probably in September. Green says he wants viewers to be inspired by what they experience.

„I hope people leave with hope and confidence for their future,” he said.

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